As a naturally frugal person, I hate spending more than necessary. I’ll spend hours researching prices if I think I can find a better deal. However, there’s one thing that I splurge on every month without shame – rent. Rent also happens to be my biggest expense, but there’s a simple reason why I’m willing to splurge.
I live a fifteen minute walk from where I work, and I love it. Some people may not mind commuting, but unfortunately I’m not one of them. I have no patience for traffic. I’ve tried audiobooks, podcasts and music. None of them make up for the fact that I’m wasting my time sitting in traffic.
I work downtown, which means I live downtown. It’s one of the most expensive places to live in my city. That’s the downside, but I can think of four major benefits – convenience, the impact on the environment, physical and mental wellness, and zero commuting costs.
Walking to Work is Convenient
Being able to walk to work is even more convenient than I expected. I pass a grocery store and a drugstore on my route. I don’t typically do my weekly shopping at the grocery store because it has a limited selection, but if I only need a couple of things, it’s really easy to duck in on my way home from work. Between the drugstore and the grocery store, I have access to everything I might need during the week, which means I often only get in my car on the weekends.
I don’t typically go home for lunch, but some people who live near me do. Living so close also means that if I leave something at work or if I need to go in for a few hours on the weekend, it’s just a short walk away.
Walking to Work Helps the Environment
My love of national parks has made me environmentally conscious, so I love that in walking to work, I’m helping the environment. Cycling is also an environmentally friendly option, but unfortunately my city isn’t very cycle-friendly. There are very few cycle lanes, and the roads are narrow. The benefit, of course, is that if you cycle, you can live further from work than I do and still spend a reasonable time commuting. That means you might be able to live in a low-rent area even if you work in a high-rent area. If I lived in a different city, I would love to bike to work.
Walking to Work Promotes Physical and Mental Wellness
My current job is the first traditional 9 to 5 office job I’ve had, and I wasn’t prepared for the physical and mental toll that sitting all day has on my body. I typically work longer than 9 to 5. By the end of the day, I rarely have the energy or the motivation to hit the gym. One of the unexpected benefits of my commute is that for thirty minutes each day, I’m forced to exercise – even if it is just a brisk walk.
I also love that I spend a minimum of thirty minutes a day outside. I frequently work through lunch, so if I commuted by car it would be easy for me to go from home, to my car, to the parking garage, to work, without getting any fresh air. It also helps that I really enjoy walking. It gives me a chance to wake up and organize my thoughts in the morning, and wind down after a long day in the evening. I’m certain that my mode of commuting puts me in a much better frame of mind than I would be if I spent my morning and evening battling traffic on the freeway.
Walking to Work Saves Money on Commuting Costs
In rent alone, I spend about 150% of what I could if I lived further out of the city. However, that doesn’t take into account commuting costs, which I think would add an additional 20% to 30%, meaning the premium I pay for convenience, environmental benefits, and physical and mental wellness is only around 25%. Of my colleagues who live further away, some choose to take public transport and some drive. Living on the public transport lines costs more, so most people drive to a park and ride and then take the train.
That means I’m definitely saving on gas (I typically fill up my car about once a month, and only use it for weekend errands and leisure). I also save on parking, which costs upwards of $100 a month depending on location, and which I get for free at my apartment complex. Public transport would easily cost more than $100 a month if I chose to go that route instead of driving.
It May Be a Splurge, But I’m Still Frugal
When I made the decision to splurge on rent, I didn’t abandon frugality entirely. I researched the downtown area to try and find the best balance between safety, convenience, and cost. The first thing I did was narrow down the area based on amenities and atmosphere. Then, I focused solely on cost, choosing the cheapest apartment that fit my needs in that area.
It’s a small place – a studio, which isn’t great for entertaining. However, it’s big enough for me, which is all I need 95% of the time, so I couldn’t justify spending more for extra space. It doesn’t have a washer/dryer. I could buy my own, or rent one for $35/month, but using the laundromat in the building feels like a small sacrifice, and I save on water!
I still look around every year when my lease is up for renewal to see if there’s a better deal available. So far, nothing has ticked my boxes as well as my current place. It’s cozy and convenient, and while it’s a splurge, the benefits outweigh the cost in my eyes.
Do you have a shameless splurge? What makes it worth the cost for you?